Residence time and physical processes in lakes

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Walter AMBROSETTI *
Luigi BARBANTI
Nicoletta SALA
(*) Corresponding Author:
Walter AMBROSETTI | w.ambrosetti@ise.cnr.it

Abstract

The residence time of a lake is highly dependent on internal physical processes in the water mass conditioning its hydrodynamics; early attempts to evaluate this physical parameter emphasize the complexity of the problem, which depends on very different natural phenomena with widespread synergies. The aim of this study is to analyse the agents involved in these processes and arrive at a more realistic definition of water residence time which takes account of these agents, and how they influence internal hydrodynamics. With particular reference to temperate lakes, the following characteristics are analysed: 1) the set of the lake's caloric components which, along with summer heating, determine the stabilizing effect of the surface layers, and the consequent thermal stratification, as well as the winter destabilizing effect; 2) the wind force, which transfers part of its momentum to the water mass, generating a complex of movements (turbulence, waves, currents) with the production of active kinetic energy; 3) the water flowing into the lake from the tributaries, and flowing out through the outflow, from the standpoint of hydrology and of the kinetic effect generated by the introduction of these water masses into the lake. These factors were studied in the context of the general geographical properties of the lake basin and the watershed (latitude, longitude, morphology), also taking account of the local and regional climatic situation. Also analysed is the impact of ongoing climatic change on the renewal of the lake water, which is currently changing the equilibrium between lake and atmosphere, river and lake, and relationships

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